Science Says Plastic Still Has A Place in Fashion

Whether or not brands have done away with virgin plastics and/or are using recycled yarns made from old PET plastic bottles, the earth is still cluttered with such an abundance of non-biodegradable plastics, it’s thought to be enough to wrap the globe in saran wrap… not once, a few times.

“Plastics are here to stay,” said Svetlana Boriskina MIT Research Scientist and manager of the school’s MechE communications lab. Boriskina’s latest projects are centered around developing materials for applications in light generation, heat management and solar energy harvesting and most importantly, sustainable engineering and pursuing the best practices to produce high-performance wearable textiles.

Boriskina and her team of researchers, who work with nanophotonics, plasmonics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics and mechanics to engineer and explore the aspects of energy transfer in textiles and garments, are striving to become part of a solution to the plastics crisis.

She and her team have found a way to use Polyethylene, a popular plastic used for grocery bags, shampoo bottles and toys, and turn it into an exceptionally comfortable woven material with luxury potential.
Due to its highly-recyclable properties, Boriskina’s team has found that with proper engineering – polyethylene fabrics can achieve better performance than their natural or synthetic counterparts. “Contrary to the common perception, polyethylene is also more environmentally-friendly than conventional synthetic polymers and cotton," as it requires significantly less energy and water for fabrication, maintenance and recycling.

And unlike other competitors on the market, Boriskina's fibres are not dipped into chemical dyes — instead her method incorporates environmentally safe dry colorings that are added into the powder, so that they are trapped into the fiber’s core and won’t seep out into soil or oceans like conventional dyes currently used by the textile industry on a broader scale. “However, the standard dyeing process is so environmentally unfriendly – turning rivers red and blue with dangerous toxins – that we want to stay away from it anyway,” she added.

“You can mix that polymer powder with anything else and then draw it together and when it solidifies all these nanoparticles get embedded and trapped within the fiber material.  They are safely inside, they don’t leak out, they are not dangling,” Boriskina said in an exclusive interview with NOWFASHION, on the sidelines of the MIT Futures of Fabrics conference last month.

Her SmartPE material, she said, can be engineered to wick perspiration efficiently and dry faster than conventional fabrics. PE garments also allow the body heat to escape radiatively, providing a passive cooling mechanism that conventional fabrics just don't have.
The process is a lot simpler than one might initially expect.  The polyethylene yarns and fabrics can be manufactured on standard textile equipment, and provide luxurious silky feel, ‘cool-on-touch’ sensation, and passive cooling properties without adding anything else.

Famous trash-to-high fashion projects include Pharrell Williams’ collection with  G-Star RAW, a line that includes denim garments made using recycled plastic removed from the oceans.

G-Star said that its denim is made from recycled polyester and polyamide (nylon) produced from post-consumer or post-industrial waste materials such as PET plastic bottles, apparel or nylon fishing nets.  In June, Prada introduced a collection of iconic bags woven with regenerated nylon called ECONYL, a 100% regenerated and regenerable yarn made by Italian textile maker Aquafil . ECONYL is made by a range of chemical and mechanical processes that recovers and recycles nylon from various types of waste, such as fishing nets, rugs, carpets and other waste materials, and turns it into a fibre that is ready for a  range of new uses. Now that behemoths like Inditex, Kering and LVMH are on the path to sustainability, doing away with virgin plastics for packaging, is one way companies see as a major step in becoming carbon neutral. On Tuesday, Amsterdam-based Fashion for Good introduced its Circular Polybag Pilot, envisaged with Cadel Deinking, a Spanish company known for removing printed ink from plastic.

Cadel Deinking recently patented a technology that is able to reduce polybags into pellets which can be used to manufacture new polybags.

Over 3,000 miles away from the Milan and Paris catwalks, Boriskina is currently working with designers on a small scale for small independent apparel and footwear companies but the possibilities are limitless.

“I would say we are trying to make something that is comfortable, that looks good, and that makes you feel good when you wear it because you know it’s been done in that kind of way,” she said, as she passed out a swathe of silky white plastic material she produced, to an international crowd.

“People don’t like to change their habits. People say they want sustainable clothes but when it comes down to the actual consumer’s decision that's not what they do. So you really need to make something that can be broadly used, that’s functional and cool, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
Hybridists of the Fashion Sphere
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
Streetwear meets Japanese Heritage at Facetasm...
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
Streetwear meets Japanese Heritage at Facetasm Show   Founded in 2007 by Japanese designer Hiromichi Ochiai, Facetasm embraces Tokyo’s essence through a variety of laid-back styles from the sportswear vibe. His ability to play with perspectives...
Streetwear meets Japanese Heritage at Facetasm Show   Founded in 2007 by Japanese designer Hiromichi Ochiai, Facetasm embraces Tokyo’s essence through a variety of laid-back styles from the sportswear vibe. His ability to play with perspectives categorises him as one of the most eclectic menswear and womenswear designers of the time. From unisex...
A Duchampian Affair at Loewe
By Elisa Carassai
“Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase," said Duchamp in...
By Elisa Carassai
By Elisa Carassai
“Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase," said Duchamp in 1952. Inspired by the same artful spirit, at Loewe, Jonathan Anderson decided to ship across the world a series of boxes containing the things that inspired him, the details that made the process of...
“Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase," said Duchamp in 1952. Inspired by the same artful spirit, at Loewe, Jonathan Anderson decided to ship across the world a series of boxes containing the things that inspired him, the details that made the process of creating so special and mini iterations of his final looks. Almost mirroring Duchamp's desire to display...
Sartorial Masters Debut at Paris Menswear
By Elisa Carassai and Ludovica Parisi
Summer Nostalgia at Davi Paris...
By Elisa Carassai and Ludovica Parisi
By Elisa Carassai and Ludovica Parisi
Summer Nostalgia at Davi Paris Spring / Summer 2021    After working for over 20 years at Ter et Bantine, Dirk Bikkembergs, Mila Schon and Giorgio Armani and Gucci, Italian designer Davide Marello finally displayed his own...
Summer Nostalgia at Davi Paris Spring / Summer 2021    After working for over 20 years at Ter et Bantine, Dirk Bikkembergs, Mila Schon and Giorgio Armani and Gucci, Italian designer Davide Marello finally displayed his own creative vision in 2018, launching Davi Paris at Paris Men’s Fashion Week.   With his subtle,...
GmbH and The Power of Community
By Elisa Carassai
Formed in 2016 by Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Berlin-based collective GmbH has...
By Elisa Carassai
Formed in 2016 by Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Berlin-based collective GmbH has garnered over the past few years a reputation for their diverse collaborative approach and innovative sustainable outlook which ensures the majority of the pair’s clothes are made from deadstock material...
Formed in 2016 by Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Berlin-based collective GmbH has garnered over the past few years a reputation for their diverse collaborative approach and innovative sustainable outlook which ensures the majority of the pair’s clothes are made from deadstock material sourced from a high-end factory in Milan – in resistance to the overconsumption of today’s fashion...
Standing Against Adversity Together
By Elisa Carassai and Sasha Regazzoni
SEAN SUEN  For Paris Digital Fashion Week, SUEN SUEN has debuted “Dionysian”, the brand’s...
By Elisa Carassai and Sasha Regazzoni
By Elisa Carassai and Sasha Regazzoni
SEAN SUEN  For Paris Digital Fashion Week, SUEN SUEN has debuted “Dionysian”, the brand’s Spring-Summer 21 collection which explores the dichotomy between the essence of human life and its conflicting internal emotions. The collection premiered with a short esoteric film capturing the tragic...
SEAN SUEN  For Paris Digital Fashion Week, SUEN SUEN has debuted “Dionysian”, the brand’s Spring-Summer 21 collection which explores the dichotomy between the essence of human life and its conflicting internal emotions. The collection premiered with a short esoteric film capturing the tragic theme of an irrational state of intertwined pain and intoxicating revelry where souls wander in a state...
Time Travelling to Old Glamour at PFW
By Alice Ierace and Sasha Regazzoni
Preppy School and 50s Galore at Ernest W. BakerFor the second day of Paris Fashion Week, brand...
By Alice Ierace and Sasha Regazzoni
By Alice Ierace and Sasha Regazzoni
Preppy School and 50s Galore at Ernest W. BakerFor the second day of Paris Fashion Week, brand Ernest W. Baker decided to rely on its heritage. “For a lot of people, us included, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown were a moment of awakening to what is really important. Being away from our loved...
Preppy School and 50s Galore at Ernest W. BakerFor the second day of Paris Fashion Week, brand Ernest W. Baker decided to rely on its heritage. “For a lot of people, us included, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown were a moment of awakening to what is really important. Being away from our loved ones, or unable to be with them physically really pushed this idea of family,” the designers...
Rave Digital: Ravensbourne Launches Fashion Game on Twitch
By Elisa Carassai
As Haute Couture Week draws to a close and Menswear begins...
By Elisa Carassai
As Haute Couture Week draws to a close and Menswear begins its digitised alternative, it comes as no surprise that brands have been battling to find ways to stand out from their competitors in the most ingenious ways on various video streaming...
As Haute Couture Week draws to a close and Menswear begins its digitised alternative, it comes as no surprise that brands have been battling to find ways to stand out from their competitors in the most ingenious ways on various video streaming platforms.   One of these is Amazon's Twitch, a video-streaming platform that started with gamers and now...
Unconventionality is The Word
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
For the first day of Paris Fashion Week Online, British luxury brand JW Anderson decided to...
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
By Alice Ierace and Ludovica Parisi
For the first day of Paris Fashion Week Online, British luxury brand JW Anderson decided to premiere an exclusive short video in black and white. “The idea is that you can tell and experience the story in your own way. At your own pace. It’s about going back to making and telling stories,”...
For the first day of Paris Fashion Week Online, British luxury brand JW Anderson decided to premiere an exclusive short video in black and white. “The idea is that you can tell and experience the story in your own way. At your own pace. It’s about going back to making and telling stories,” explained the designer. With this idea of exploration and storytelling in mind, photographer Lewis Ronald...